If you’re not from Austin, then you probably don’t understand the meaning of dining at Uchi so let me bring you up to speed with a few quick facts
- Uchi is a contemporary Japanese sushi restaurant
- The name translates to “house” in English
- The menu consists of hot and cool tastings, sushi and sashimi. makimono, yakimono and tempura, and a changing omakase based on seasonal selections
- Uchi has a limited number of reservations per evening and the majority of its patrons are more than willing to wait 90 – 120 minutes to be seated
- Uchi’s owner & chef is Tyson Cole, whom won the 2011 James Beard Award for Best Chef, Southwest
- Chef Cole competed against Morimoto on Iron Chef America: Contemporary Japanese and although he lost, the score was close (49-43)
- Named one of Bon Apetit’s Top 10 Sushi Restaurants
- Featured on Zagat Guide’s Best Food in Austin
- GQ declared Uchi one of 2010′s Top New Restaurants in America
- Uchi has a sister restaurant, Uchiko, meaning “child of Uchi.” Uchiko has also won a number of awards and is considered a more casual Japanese kitchen compared to Uchi.
Now that you understand how renowned of a restaurant Uchi is considered, let me share my experience with you…..
Uchi was one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever enjoyed. Each dish is delicious, but the food as a whole, is not the type of food that is crave-able. For instance, I don’t believe I’ll ever eat at Uchi then 3 weeks later “crave” a specific dish and be compelled to instantly return. I believe this is because their food is truly unique.
The food is presented in such a well displayed manner that it’s beautiful to simply look at. The presentation forces diners to pause and enjoy the site before carefully consuming the food in front of them. Each dish is perfectly balanced in flavors – acidity, sweetness, saltiness, and textures play an equal part in developing the flavors as a whole.
The consideration of each element that goes into a specific dish is complimented by the restaurant’s attentive and knowledgeable staff. Each waiter, waitress, sushi chef, and hostess we encountered knew the menu inside and out, was able to recommend wine pairings, and simplified the menu for our understanding This ability to eloquently explain the menu without making a patron feel unintelligent is a feat that not all restaurant staff can accomplish.
As for the atmosphere, Uchi is naturally beautiful. Playing up the contemporary Japaenese style – taking advantage of rocks, aged wood, water pools, and a flourish of greenery. Even with a 2 hour wait the experience was somehow calming, relaxing, and enjoyable.
As for our meal, we were able to enjoy it while sitting at the sushi bar. While some may believe that to be not as an intimate dining experience, I was ecstatic! I love watching sushi chefs at work, looking at all the exotic, color ingredients, and speaking with the person preparing my food to learn more about the ingredients, technique, and the specialties of the menu.
M<3 and I started our evening off on the outdoor patio with a few glasses of wine and some grilled shishito peppers (one of his favorites at any restaurant!).
The peppers were perfectly cooked, not overly spicy, and simply salted.
We were also treated to a few passed appetizers that are served to guests whom are waiting to be seated – we were able to taste spicy, apple slices. Who knew a well-picked apple and a salty-spicy rub could enhance the flavor of an apple so much. We were also treated to some grilled cauliflower that I had been eyeing on the menu!Once we were seated, we were greeted with a watermelon granita, a palate cleanser. Slightly sweet and refreshing!
Once we had time to review the menu and ask some questions to the chef and waitress, M<3 and I decided on a few dishes to split – miso soup, sweet-chili glazed brussel sprouts, a spider roll, and nasu (Japanese eggplant) sushi.
The soup was delicious & simple, just as miso soup should be.
M<3 is not a huge fan of vegetables but we both loved these brussel sprouts – so much so that I was intrigued enough to find a similar recipe online the following week. Again, this isn’t a crave-able food but just truly unique, delicious, and the perfect accompaniment to any Asian meal.
The Spider rolll is M<3′s go-to sushi roll. It’s a cooked roll with fried shrimp (or crab, at times – Uchi served their’s with shrimp), a spicy mayo sauce, and cucumber. Uchi’s roll also had an eel sauce on the side, a sweet-salty mixture that made the Spider Roll mouthwatering! The shrimp was cooked to perfection (I loved the crunch!) and the spicy mayo was careful to not overpower the other, lighter flavors in the roll. I would definitely recommend this roll for non-sushi eaters!
I love eggplant, it’s one of my favorite vegetables and I had never experience it as nigiri. This was slighty sweet, the skin added a bit of chewiness and the eggplant is self was melt-in-your-mouth soft. It was a simple transition into heartier dishes.
After our shared dishes, we each chose something a bit more exclusive to our individual tastes – I sampled, the chef recommended, machi cure (aka: “sushi nachos” which is how the chef described them to me). It was simple and fresh with lightly fried yuca, marcona almonds, asian pear, smoked yellowtail tuna, garlic brittle and tobiko.
Mayank chose to try the sasami yaki, an oak-grilled chicken breast with lemongrass and cilantro. He said it was one of the most moist and flavorful pieces of chicken he had ever tasted.
Since Uchi is known for their sushi, I had to try a couple of pieces on my own! I chose the hotate (spicy scallop & avocado) and sake (simple, salmon and rice).
Finally, we ended our even with a double dessert treat from the chef. We were able to share the coffee panna cotta with white chocolate sorbet & mango and the lemon gelato with pistachios and white balsamic. I never thought I would enjoy white balsamic in a dessert but the lemon gelato was the dessert I kept going back for!
I’m truly thankful to <3M for such a wonderful birthday dinner. We both agreed that Uchi is a restaurant that we both want to visit again – though it’s definitely a special occasion type dining experience. And in the future, we’ll remember to plan well in advance to ensure reservations.